Indoor rowing can boost aerobic fitness, tone your physique and help to shed unwanted pounds. And the bonus is, you’re never going to get wet.
This article brings you the best home rowing machine, together with the key features you should look for in your ideal piece of equipment.
But, if you’re impatient, here are our top picks:
- Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine – #1 Best Rower
- Stamina 35-1402 ATS Air Rower
- WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine S4 – Most Stylish Rower
- Fitness Reality 1000
- Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 – Value Option Rower
Why Have a Rowing Machine?
Rowing machines have become the go-to piece of equipment in the gym, with their ability to provide an all-over body workout. I’d suggest that if you only purchase one exercise machine for your home, it should be an indoor rower.
Here are their benefits:
- Improve cardio health by raising the heart rate.
- Provide low-impact exercise making it easy on the joints, as opposed to a treadmill.
- Prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Can burn over 400-600 calories per hour.
- Build muscle by working both the upper and lower body.
- Prevent lower back pain.
- Can be used safely in the home, you’re not affected by the weather.
Here’s a quick video explaining the health benefits of rowing machines, and why they’re considered the perfect exercise.
Types of Rowing Machines
Choosing the best home rowing machine involves selecting the correct type. Although they all promote the benefits mentioned earlier, how they deliver these advantages differ.
Generally speaking, rowing machines are available in hydraulic, water, air and magnetic versions.
They’re distinguishable by the manner in which they provide resistance. If you were in an actual rowing boat, the pressure of the water against the movement of the oars forms resistance. In your living room, the machine has to create it artificially.
Here’s a swift overview of the different types:
Hydraulic Rowing Machines
These are the oldest types of indoor rowers, using hydraulic pistons to provide resistance through each stroke. However, as resistance remains constant whatever your speed, it doesn’t replicate “real” rowing.
With no flywheel, they’re usually smaller in size than the other kinds of rowers. This could mean they’re the best home rowing machine for those short on space.
- Simple design and with little to go wrong.
- Small and lightweight.
- Have a distinctive squeaking sound.
- Resistance can drop during exercise as the pistons warm up.
- Little user feedback, with a basic monitor at best, some have none whatsoever.
- Doesn’t replicate “real” rowing.
Water Rowing Machines
The most modern style of rowing machine, being invented in 1987. Often crafted with a wood frame, some people consider them pieces of furniture more than simply gym equipment.
These rowers have a water reservoir, usually positioned behind the footplates. When you pull the handle backward, the flywheel spins in the water, making resistance.
- Stylish, possibly the best home rowing machine for those who want their equipment on display.
- Quieter than air versions.
- Satisfying water swoosh sound.
- Low maintenance, since they have few parts to wear out.
- Large and heavy.
- Water has to be frequently changed or treated with purifiers.
- Not foldable, making them difficult to store.
- The toughest on the wallet.
Air Rowing Machines
Sometimes called ergometers or ergos, air rowing machines are the most familiar form of rowers.
They consist of a large flywheel with numerous vanes. When you pull the rowing handle, the flywheel begins to spin. The air pushes against the blades, creating resistance.
The faster you row, the harder the resistance becomes. Tension can’t usually be adjusted manually. However, most air machines contain dampers, allowing more air into the flywheel case, raising the difficulty of the stroke.
- Replicates real rowing and used by professionals in the off-season.
- No dials to turn to increase resistance, instead, raise your stroke rate.
- Detailed information feedback through electronic monitors.
- The loudest of all rowing machines.
Magnetic Rowing Machines
As you’ve probably guessed, these rowing machines use magnets for resistance.
In most cases, the user adjusts the position of the magnets with a dial. This determines how near the magnets are to the flywheel.
These magnets never actually come into direct contact with the flywheel. Instead, eddy currents created by the magnets create pressure, so more force is required to make the wheel spin.
- The quietest type of rowing machine.
- Wide range of resistance settings.
- Smaller than air or water rowers.
- More commonly have pre-programmed workouts, which automatically adjust resistance during exercise.
- Bear little resemblance to real rowing.
What to Look for in the Best Home Rowing Machine
Selecting the best rowing machine for the home means seeking out the characteristics that are important to you. Here are some factors to consider:
1. Type of Rowing Machine
From the above guide, determine the style of the machine you want. Factors such as rowing realism, noise, size, weight and information feedback vary between the different types and therefore affect your decision.
2. Information Monitor
The amount of detail provided by the monitor (if included) varies between machines. In the simplest form, they indicate strokes and calculated calories burned. The more advanced monitors give information on heart rate, speed and duration, etc. as well as providing a visual output for any programs that might be inbuilt.
3. Size and Weight
When choosing the best home rowing machine, consider where you’re planning on locating it and whether you’ll be moving the machine to store.
Hydraulic machines are the smallest and lightest, whereas water rowers are the largest and most cumbersome.
If you’re using your rowing machine in the living room while other family members are trying to watch TV, noise could be a crucial consideration.
Magnetic machines are the quietest, air rowers the loudest.
If the rowing machine is to remain in-situ in a living area, a more stylish device may be more appealing such as a water rower.
Best Home Rowing Machine Review- The Top Five
Here are my picks of the best rowing machines on the market, starting with the ultimate piece of equipment, the Concept2 Model D.
1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine – Best by a mile
I consider this to be the best home rowing machine currently available, and others agree. This rower is found in hundreds of gyms across the world and has an incredible 40-year history.
We had one in the Dragon Boat Racing Club I belonged to way back and the elite members had stripped a Concept2 down and modified the handle to simulate a one oar action. It was called the Erg but was really the Dreaded Erg.
Club members then had to go as fast as possible for 2 minutes to grade everyone for the boat positioning. That was really tough on us members and the rowing machine too.
As an air rower, it has a versatile range of 10 damper settings, allowing you to select the resistance level of your choice.
I’d suggest that this could also prove to be the best home rowing machine for those who love their gadgets and are after detailed information feedback. The large backlit monitor display has Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to link to external compatible apps and fitness trackers to keep abreast of your progress and compare yourself with others.
With a seat height of 14 inches and adjustable feet rests, this machine would be suitable for people of varying sizes. Hence, possibly a useful feature if different members of your family will be using the equipment.
The caster wheels enable it to be easily moved in the home, attractive if you’re relocating it after training. This rower also separates into two pieces for storage, which could appeal if you lack space.
The rower comes in all black or a light grey. Black for me. There is also another similarly designed rowing machine, the Concept2 Model E.
It’s 6″ further off the ground making getting on and off easier and you are seated in a more normal sitting position when exercising. For those with mobility problems, especially dodgy knees it could be a tempting option although at a slightly higher price.
Dimensions: 96 inches by 24 inches by 44.5 inches
Weight: 57 pounds
- Designed to be quieter than most air machines.
- Massive 500-pound user capacity.
- USB compatibility to download your workouts.
- Includes games for more entertaining sessions.
- Immense information feedback.
- The resistance range isn’t too great but then it isn’t on air rowers.
Close-ish behind the mighty Concept2 is this air rower from Stamina.
I feel that this may be the best home rowing machine for men and women looking for enhanced comfort in their equipment. It has a heavily padded upholstered seat to ensure that even with extended sessions, you don’t suffer butt ache. Furthermore, the lightly textured foam grips mean your hands don’t suffer from fatigue.
The LCD monitor provides information on your total strokes, strokes per minute, distance, speed, time and calories burned. Hence, possibly ideal for those who want to keep track of their workout progress.
Additionally, this rowing machine incorporates soft feet protectors. This could be a bonus for those people using the product on hardwood or laminate flooring.
Dimensions: 73.5 inches by 18.2 inches by 22 inches
Weight: 59 pounds
- Adjustable nylon foot straps to ensure feet remain correctly located.
- Built-in wheels to increase portability.
- Foldable for easy storage.
- Non-slip feet.
- When not in use, it can stand on its end to reduce footprint.
- Modern design.
- May be too noisy for some users.
- Maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds could make it unsuitable for larger people.
3. WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine S4 – Most Stylish
For people who demand practicality with the ultimate in stylish aesthetics, this could be the best home rowing machine. Made from solid black walnut, this water rower wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary living room.
A side-mounted monitor display provides information on calories burned, speed in meters per second and miles per hour. Furthermore, it incorporates pre-programmed workouts to give you the ultimate training session.
With adjustable resistance settings, this rowing machine is equally useful for novice and advanced rowers.
It’s relatively quiet for a water rowing machine, as it’s designed to absorb both sound and vibrations. For the less mobile, it includes a high-rise adaptor. This could appeal to those who struggle to sit down low to the floor.
Dimensions: 83 inches by 22 inches by 21 inches
Weight: 108 pounds
- One-year manufacturer’s guarantee.
- Coated in Danish oil to prolong lifespan and enhance the finish.
- Can be stored on its end, useful for restricted spaces.
- Sleek, modern and distinctive appearance.
- Heavy rowing machine which means it may not suit people looking for a more portable piece of equipment.
- A premium price for a premium product.
If you’re looking for more than just a magnetic rower, this may be the best home rowing machine for you. The friction-free resistance means it’s extremely quiet. It also enables you to adjust the settings through 14 different levels.
In addition to the standard rowing features, it allows you to complete standing exercises. These include bicep and tricep curls, shoulder presses and shrugs, all by using its cable-resistance mechanism.
The Bluetooth monitor connects to My Cloud Fitness Apps (on both iOS and Android), which I feel may be perfect for those who enjoy the motivational aspects of technology. It allows you to set workout targets on your phone or tablet, which are then fed information from your rowing machine.
Furthermore, the in-built LCD screen has over-sized digits. This may be a beneficial feature for those with impaired eyesight.
This rower is suitable for people with heights ranging from four feet nine inches through to six feet six inches.
Dimensions: 88.5 inches by 21.5 inches by 21.5 inches
Weight: 63.6 pounds
- Extra-wide handle grip to allow for a more extensive range of exercises.
- Contoured and cushioned seat.
- Includes a smartphone holder for those who want to be near to their tech.
- Pivoting foot pedals for enhanced comfort.
- Foldable for those who need to save space.
- A 250-pound maximum weight capacity makes it unsuitable for larger persons.
5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 – Best Basic Budget Option
If you’re looking for a no-frills piece of equipment, this could prove to be the best home rowing machine.
As a hydraulic rower, it’s incredibly compact and lightweight. Hence, in my opinion, a sensible choice for people who drastically lack floor space or want to pack the machine away after use.
Even though a minimalistic machine, comfort hasn’t been forgotten. Pivoting foot pedals, foam grips and a cushioned seat all enhance user experience.
Furthermore, the exercise resistance is adjustable through 12 difficulty settings. This will enable you to modify your workouts as your fitness and ability increases.
Dimensions: 54 inches by 20 inches by 23 inches
Weight: 20.5 pounds
- Non-slip handlebars.
- Smooth-glide seat.
- Handle-mounted LCD screen means you don’t have to stop your exercise to adjust settings.
- Adjustable foot straps will prevent foot slippage and reduce the chance of injury.
- Users with imperfect vision may struggle with the small LCD monitor.
- The simplicity of the machine may not suit all tastes.
- Hydraulic mechanism can be noisy.
The Final Stroke
In my opinion, the best home rowing machine is the outstanding Concept2 Model D.
This air rower has everything you need in a serious workout machine. It’s backed by a proven pedigree, being used in gyms throughout the world. What’s more, the sizeable Bluetooth-enabled LCD monitor provides a vast swathe of information.
Its adjustable dampers and immense 500-pound capacity make it suitable for all—from a lightweight novice through to an advanced heavyweight user.
That’s not to say the other machines in this review are without merit. The WaterRower Classic is stylish and possibly the most aesthetically pleasing. Equally, the Sunny Health & Fitness is a budget-friendly basic machine for those unconcerned with frills.
However, for the ultimate in rowers, it has to be the Concept2 Model D.